08 May 2017

Second Reading of the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill – Speech by Mr Desmond Lee Second Minister for Home Affairs & Second Minister for National Development

1.     Madam Speaker, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

 

Introduction

 

2.     The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) [pronounced as: ICK-SENT] was adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2005.

 

3.     It seeks to prevent and suppress nuclear terrorism, by specifically criminalising such acts, and providing for international assistance in relation to such acts.

 

4.     The possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack in Southeast Asia is remote. Regional terrorist elements are not known to have the capability to build nuclear devices. They are also more likely to use conventional improvised explosive devices, which they are more familiar with.

 

5.     However, the rise of ISIS has heightened the global threat of terrorism using nuclear or radioactive devices. In 2015, ISIS announced in its English language magazine "Dabiq" that it intended to attack the US with either a nuclear device or explosives. Given its access to funding and a global network of supporters, it could conceivably build a crude improvised nuclear device. As such, we cannot discount the possibility of ISIS or its supporters getting hold of nuclear material to carry out a terror attack against us or other countries, especially when many countries, including those in our region, use nuclear energy, or are actively exploring the use of nuclear energy. In February this year, Malaysian authorities arrested eight people connected to the theft of Iridium-192, which is a radioactive material which can be used to make dirty bombs.

 

6.     Given these developments, we have to treat the threat of nuclear and radioactive attacks seriously, even if the likelihood is currently remote.

 

7.     We are now ready to ratify, or give domestic legal effect to, the Convention by tabling the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill now before this House.

 

Nuclear Terrorism Offences

 

8.     Clauses 4 to 10 of the Bill criminalise acts that are prohibited under the Convention, and set out penalties for such acts.

 

9.     In particular, clause 6 makes it an offence to intentionally and unlawfully use any radioactive material or nuclear explosive device:

 

      1. With the intention to cause the death of or serious bodily injury to any individual, or substantial damage to property or the environment;

         
      2. Or, to compel any other person, international organisation or government to do or refrain from doing any act.

         

10.     Clause 7 criminalises the act of intentionally and unlawfully using or damaging a nuclear facility, that causes, or creates a risk of, the release of radioactive material:

 

  1. With the intention to cause the death of or serious bodily injury to any individual, or substantial damage to property or the environment;

     
  2. Or, to compel any other person, international organisation or government to do or refrain from doing any act.

     

11.     These are extremely serious offences. We have therefore pegged the penalties at the same level as s300(a) of the Penal Code, which is the offence of murder where there is an intention to cause death; and where death is being caused or has been caused. In such instances, the perpetrator will face the mandatory death penalty. Similarly, a person who carried out the offence in Clauses 6 or 7, who intended to cause the death of an individual and who did cause death, will face the mandatory death penalty. In any other case, he will receive life imprisonment.

 

12.     As required by the Convention, the Bill also criminalises other acts which can lead to the intentional and unlawful use of radioactive material or nuclear explosive devices. These include the intentional and unlawful possession of any radioactive material or nuclear explosive device, and the making of a nuclear explosive device, with the intention to use such material or device to cause death, serious bodily injury, or substantial damage to property or the environment.

 

Extra-territorial Jurisdiction

 

13.     Madam, Clause 11 of the Bill provides for extra-territorial jurisdiction over nuclear terrorism offences. Any person outside Singapore who commits an act which constitutes a nuclear terrorism offence if carried out in Singapore, is deemed to have committed the act here.

 

14.     If taken into custody, the person would be charged, tried and punished accordingly in Singapore. This provision allows us to prosecute the offender in Singapore, if it is not possible or desirable to extradite him. It ensures that perpetrators do not escape punishment, regardless of which country they are from, and where they committed these offences. This approach is similar to that in other terrorism-related laws such as the Terrorism (Suppression of Bombings) Act.

 

Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance  

 

15.     Madam, the Convention serves as a basis for extradition among countries who are parties to the Convention, or States Parties, for offences of nuclear terrorism. The Bill gives effect to this requirement. Clause 13 includes provisions to facilitate extradition requests by countries who are parties to the Convention. Every nuclear terrorism offence will be deemed as an extraditable crime for the purposes of Parts III and IV of the Extradition Act. 

 

16.     The Convention also requires that State Parties provide mutual legal assistance to other State Parties. Singapore will render assistance within our domestic legal framework.

 

Conclusion

 

17.     Madam Speaker, if Parliament enacts this Bill, Singapore will join 109 other UN member states who are party to the Convention. It reiterates our commitment to combat terrorism, as a responsible member of the international community.

 

18.     Madam Speaker, I beg to move.

 

Last Updated on 08 May 2017
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